Discussion

Hello all. Just got word that my project failed to reach its funding goal - I knew that a while back, but now that it's official it's still a bit sad. Thanks to all of you for your support. The good news is that I have publishers interested in the project, so I expect you will be seeing it in print in the next couple of years. Stay tuned!

So. Here we are. The last day of the Inkshares/Nerdist contest. Wow.

Congratulations to the winners. I hope winning the contest is everything you hoped it would be, and you are able to use this wonderful opportunity to its fullest extent.

Congratulations to everybody who has finished writing a novel. Short stories are sprints, novels are effing ironman marathons. Just being able to complete a major work of art such as a novel is a minor miracle, and you should be very proud you have done it.

Finally, congratulations to everybody who is working on their first novel. Being an artist is a lonely, frustrating, highly misunderstood life – and we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

So, that’s me. I know I still have 45 days to get my book published here, but honestly: if I couldn’t get 40 preorders in 45 days, how likely is it that I’ll be able to get 960 preorders in the next 45 days? Besides, I have a novel to finish writing by the end of the year, and November and December are likely to be filled with my data entry day job, so the next month is the only realistic time I will have to finish it.

Thanks to everybody who has supported Both Sides. NOW! That has meant a lot to me. And, fear not for Both Sides. NOW! It’s a very good novel, and they always find a home somewhere sooner or later.

CONCLUSION

I say this at the end of all of my readings and interviews, so I thought I should probably end with it here. If you read a book by a small press or self-published author that you really enjoy let the world know! Blog about it. Post reviews to Amazon, Goodreads or the like. Mention it to your social networks. Small press and self-published authors live and die by word of mouth, and your friends would probably be grateful to find a good book by a new writer. Everybody wins!

PS

If you’re interested in keeping up with me beyond the Inkshares/Nerdist contest, I’m all over the place.

MY WEB SITE: Les Pages aux Folles (http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca)

ON TWITTER at https://twitter.com/#!/ARNSProprietor (I follow back any HUMAN who is NOT TRYING TO SELL ME SOMETHING, whether it be a product or a religion)

ON FACEBOOK at http://www.facebook.com/ira.nayman (personal page)

ON FACEBOOK AGAIN at http://www.facebook.com/ThrishtyFriednishes (author’s page – Shtay thrishty my friednishes!)

ON AMAZON.COM: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AIra%20Nayman (in case you’re curious about my available writing)

Oh, dear – I didn’t post an update yesterday. Sorry, but I was busy writing.

I contributed 3,300 words to a short story (I polished it today and sent it out). That is by no means a record for me, but it’s more words than I have written in a single day in the recent past, so it felt good. Really good.

I had been struggling with this story. The setting and characters were great, but the story I had originally come up with was way too involved; some day, it may make a great long novella or even short novel, but that wasn’t going to help me write something that had a reasonable chance of getting into the anthology I was considering submitting to. Yesterday, having realized that I had to put that story aside, I came up with a story that used the same setting and characters, but had a much smaller scope. Coming up with the idea took a week and a half; writing the story took about 12 hours, on and off. It goes that way sometimes.

Tomorrow, I start finishing my latest novel!

POST-MORTEM, DAY FIVE

Be fearless.

In the 1990s, I was part of a couple of different radio sketch comedy groups. With the first, I was so nervous about performing that I did very little behind the mic (the fact that we were recording at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation headquarters did not help). With the second, Dead Air, I had no choice.

Dead Air was started by four writers; we had several auditions to get actors (and one for other writers, but that didn’t pan out). At the first recording session, we found that the female actors were amazing, but the male actors? Meh. We didn’t ask all but one of them back to the second recording session. But, of course, that left us with a huge hole in the cast. Three of the four writers ended up performing. Including me.

At first, I was given small straight man roles. But Scott, the unofficial director, must have seen something in me, because he started giving me crazier roles. This was a gamble, inasmuch as I was (and remain) a quiet, laid back person. To both our surprises, I rose to the occasion, giving some truly crazed performances.

To do this, I learned an invaluable lesson from famous comedians (people like Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell): be fearless and commit. No matter how bizarre a character is, you have to be totally committed to the character’s reality and you have to have no fear of falling flat on your face or looking ridiculous. If there is even a shadow of fear in your performance, the audience will sense it and you will lose them.

How does this relate to something like the Inkshares/Nerdist contest? Well, I always hated asking other people for favours. As people who have been following my personal history will appreciate, I never wanted to impose on anybody because I didn’t feel I deserved anybody’s support. I suspect asking for help does not come naturally to a lot of people, who fear being turned down. However, you cannot expect to do well in a contest of this type if you have that attitude.

So, I tried to be fearless. I asked everybody I knew for help. I asked a few people I knew only tangentially for help. I asked complete strangers for help. To my delight, most of the people I knew were happy to help, including some that I didn’t think I was especially close to. People actually like helping others – who knew? A couple of people I knew explained why they felt they could not help, which was cool. Others didn’t respond, which was fine. Most of the people I cold contacted didn’t respond, but that’s understandable; when I start getting requests for help from strangers, I don’t honestly know how I will respond. For me, it’s actually really important that I was able to act against my personality to help my career.

One thing I realized is that you don’t get what you want out of life if you don’t do everything you can to get it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. But you do have to be fearless.

POST-MORTEM, DAY FOUR

Don’t be embarrassed.

Seriously. If there are 100 entries in a contest with five winners, 95% of the contestants won’t win. I think there were closer to 200 entries, so that means that 97% of the contestants won’t win. Losing, in other words, is the default position; despite this society’s emphasis on winning, there’s no shame in that.

Early on, I pointed out that, win or lose, you should look upon the Inkshares/Nerdist contest as only one part of your artistic/life’s journey. As Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” As I used to tell my students when I was a university lecturer, a career in the arts involves 30, 40 or more years of work with no guarantee of success. If you can see yourself doing something else with your life, save yourself the heartache and do it. On the other hand, if you can’t imagine doing anything else with your life, you won’t let a setback like not winning this contest stop you.

You did your best. If that wasn’t enough to win, do your own post-mortem and learn the lessons you need to learn from the experience so that you’ll do better next time. Another quote I like to bandy about in situations like this comes from the great 20th century playwright Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Failing better may not be all that inspirational. But it is a realistic goal.

POST-MORTEM, DAY THREE

Know your audience.

We were told going in that a substantial number of our preorders could come from other authors on the site. I have had a small number of people on the site preorder (and dog bless you for that!), but not many. And why would they? I write humour, one of a very small number of writers on the site who do. The novel I entered into the competition was weirdly structured and didn’t fit comfortably into any of the genres’ popular sub-genres. Perhaps worst of all, Both Sides. NOW! has ;* LITERARY PRETENSIONS *. I probably couldn’t have chosen a book less likely to succeed in a contest such as this.

;This is, of course, a good general piece of advice. The problem with me is that Both Sides. NOW! is not an anomaly; everything I write is like it. I was talking to another writer the other night, and I pointed out that, as far as I can tell (and my experience with this contest has confirmed), there doesn’t appear to be a natural audience for what I do. This means that I literally have to build my audience one reader at a time. At some point, I may reach a critical mass of readers that will grow exponentially (the cascade effect I mentioned a couple of days ago), but until that happens, I just have to grind out every reader I can.;

To make the point obvious: don’t enter a science fiction novel into a contest for romance novels (unless it has a romantic plot that really kicks ass). Again, if you’re honest about this, you could save yourself some embarrassment.

POST-MORTEM, DAY TWO

Managing a campaign like the one you need to succeed in something like the Inkshares/Nerdist writing contest is incredibly involved and time-consuming. If you’re going to attempt it, you should be planning what you will do several months in advance.

I learned about the contest two days after it started, and entered on an impulse. All of the organizing I was able to do was, therefore, done on the fly, on an ad hoc basis, which is the polar opposite of ideal. Had I had the luxury of time, I could have built relationships with people who might have been able to help me instead of just asking for help and hoping for the best. I could also have built a better premium structure. And had the cover of the book completed before the contest started. And so on, and so on.

One other advantage of starting at least a couple of months in advance, is that you will get a good idea of whether or not you have the support to make trying something like this worthwhile. If you’re realistic about the responses you get in the pre-planning phase, you could save yourself some embarrassment.

With one week to go, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I won’t be winning the Inkshares/Nerdist writing contest. Not even close. So, in the closing days of the contest, I’d like to offer some thoughts on my experience.

POST-MORTEM, DAY ONE

It should be obvious that, unless you have a very close, very broad extended family and/or circle of personal friends, you cannot win a contest like this. Your first stop will likely be the fans of your writing, but not many of us have enough (I obviously don’t) to be able to leverage them to succeed. It becomes necessary, then, to reach out to individuals and groups in the hope that they will start a cascade effect (aka: going viral) that will report your need to the far reaches of the Internet and generate a lot of preorders from people you don’t know.

Some of my friends amplified the message that I was in the contest and needed help (and thank you, you know who you are); unfortunately, this did not appear to significantly increase my preorders. In addition, I did reach out to people I knew, however slightly, and organizations that I thought might be helpful in my cause. Unfortunately, although I made some connections that might help me in the future, they did not help me in the present situation.

Sigh.

Why? I can think of a couple of reasons.

Most of the books in the contest are fairly mainstream, and certainly easily categorizable. Because of this, they have natural constituencies they can call upon for support. This point was driven home to me by a woman who told her followers that she was hoping for help from a steampunk organization. Those who wrote zombie novels could expect help from people who enjoy zombie novels; those who wrote post-apocalyptic novels could find support in that community, and so on.

I believe that mine was one of only three or four humourous novels in the competition. I briefly thought that people who liked humourous science fiction would be my natural constituency, but when I started looking for them, I found that they were incredibly difficult to find, and the few I did approach did not respond to my call for help. Otherwise, a novel about everybody in the world changing sex doesn’t fit neatly into one of science fiction’s sub-genres, making rallying support for it difficult.

In the end, my inability to muster support beyond my circle of friends and family made it impossible for me to do well.

When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a lot for my schools student newspaper’ (mostly for the arts section), and hosted a book show for the school’s community radio station for two years. In the course of these activities, I did a lot of interviewing. If a subject ever expressed any discomfort at being interviewed, my standard response was: “You have the easy part: all you have to do is talk about yourself. That’s a subject you should know inside out. I have the hard part: I have to come up with interesting questions and structure them in a way that will make sense to the person listening to the interview!”

As I started putting my fictional writing out for public consumption, the table turned: now, I was the one being interviewed. And, I learned a valuable lesson: talking about yourself is hard! It may be Canadian modesty, or my introverted nature, or some combination of those and other factors, but talking about myself wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be! (My apologies to anybody whose difficulty being interviewed I may have downplayed in the past.)

Being interviewed, like any other human activity, is something you get better at with practice. I like to think I now make an engaging interview subject. But, you can decide for yourself. Last month, I was interviewed by the Web site Comcastro. It was a little raucus and a lot of fun. The interview has just been posted on their Web site – give it a listen (it’s at the bottom of the page). If you’ve been following my posts here, some of the stories will be familiar to you, but there’s also a lot of information about me that I don’t talk about much (like my relationship with Richard Nixon – purely professional, I assure you). 

I may just be getting the hang of this being interviewed thing.

Lp Leanne Phillips · Reader · added almost 3 years ago
Hi Ira! Thanks for the pitch! I'm looking forward to reading your book.  I hope you'll check out my son Robert Wren's book, Ophelia, Doll, and pre-order a copy if it's something you like. It's a dark fantasy. Good luck and please keep me posted. I want to read your book even if it is ultimately published via other means, so keep me on your list.